"Disaster!" "Embarrassment!" "This circus formerly known as the Lightning!" For the Tampa Bay Lightning, there haven't exactly been a slew of glowing reviews to pull for next season's advertising materials.
So just like the geek at the school dance, the Lightning are going to work harder than the other guys to win your heart, and win it the only way they know how: with dazzling technology!
From the team that gave us the puppet from "Saw" threatening Lightning players in the locker room (video) comes an "e-brochure" Web video for tickets to the 2009-10 season that's just boatloads of kitschy fun. It stars Lightning Head Coach Rick Tocchet, goaltender Mike Smith(notes), forward Ryan Malone(notes) ... and most importantly, you.
OK, it doesn't have to be you. It can be any name you chose to enter at the start of this ingenious mini-movie. But what happens later is extraordinary ... in the sense that you and your phone quite literally enter this virtual world of mystery and partial season-ticket plans.
In the sense that someone from the video calls you. Seriously.
So please join us on our screen-captured journey through a thrilling e-adventure, in which the Lightning can only skate to victory if you buy a ticket and plant your fanny in a seat by the third period. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss two minutes of your life goodbye. And you'll be left wondering why Mike Smith is giving you Blue Steel while wearing Cameron Diaz's hair gel.
From Channel1media.com, in association with the Tampa Bay Lightning, comes ...
An Oren Koules/
Len Barrie Production.
As the page loads, you'll hear the rousing "Theme From 'Together We Will' Ticket Brochure" that sounds like either the music from a "National Treasure" movie or a local news investigative unit segment.
Then you see a prompt in which you must enter some information. The name is later used to personalize this experience for you. The phone number is very important for the interactive part of the video, and very important to the Lightning ticket agents that will no doubt bug you weekly during the season with 2-for-1 deals.
Our first attempt at a name -- "Hu-Flung Poo" -- was rather juvenile.
Ah, much better. The phone number is, naturally, the Tampa Bay Lightning office line.
The video begins with shots of the St. Pete Times Forum, featuring screaming, happy, borderline ecstatic fans; for obviously having been shot in 2004, the video quality is fantastic.
We see scenes of players like Vincent Lecavalier(notes), Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos(notes) doing amazing things on the ice. Alexander Ovechkin(notes) gets checked to the boards, to remind the Southeast that there's only three teams that separate the top from the bottom. The clock ticks down to zero for the second period, and the announcer tells us that the Lightning are clinging to a 3-2 lead. The team leaves for the locker room where ...
Ryan Malone and Mike Smith take a seat and engage in some awkward dialogue. Awkward in the sense that Smith is on skates and in the locker room, when he hasn't even started skating yet this summer.
"Bugsy, they here yet?" asks Smith.
Alas, "they" are not in their seats yet, according to Malone.
"Man we need those guys," said Smith, "they're our secret weapon if we want to win this thing." And yet the team has a 3-2 lead going into the final 20 minutes.
Enter Coach Rick Tocchet, looking both dapper and concerned. "They" are not in the seats yet, the players tell him.
"I got this," said Tocchet, with the stoic confidence of a man convinced that Auburn can cover the 18 on the road against Louisiana Tech.
(A BlackBerry!? OMG Balsillie Watch!!!)
"We're running out of time!" says Tocchet, like a Junior Varsity Jack Bauer. He's so into this mission that he completely ignores the fact that CBC Sports is filming his diagramed plays on the white board.
Anyhoo, with that, Tocchet presses some buttons and we cut to the arena video screens.
Here's where the fun really begins. If you enter your actual phone number into the prompt at the beginning, Rick Tocchet calls you on the phone. You answer, and he says:
"Where are you? We're lookin' for ya. The guys and I are really counting on you to be an important part of our team this season."
He then tells you to "press one" to select a seat for next season. Seriously, it's the greatest thing since Captain Zoom sang happy birthday to you in the 1970s. You really feel like part of the team, and you're not even one of the 75,000 defensemen currently under contract.
The mission complete, it's time for you to join the Lightning fo' realz.
At this point we should tell you that we may or may not have tested this e-brochure's language filters with some rather creative options, and they may or may not have gone through to become official Lightning jerseys. Just sayin'.
Not sure how a season-ticket holder ends up playing on Steven Stamkos's wing in the third period, but ...
Huzzah! Victory! No word if Barry leaned over to Stamkos during the celebration and said, "By the way, you have no business playing in the NHL right now."
Ah, what an adventure. Close calls, real-time excitement, thrills galore and ... wait, what?
Forward to five friends? Oh, man, the whole thing was a crummy pyramid scheme so Len Barrie can raise "I've got enough scratch to own this team, Bettman" funds!
Or an elaborate Facebook app. One of the two.